Chicken and Egg Issue 15 - page 24-25

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Linda Ryan, from Inspiring Pet Teaching,
has been telling us all about her superstar,
late ex-bat Priscilla (re-homed through
the BHWT) who learnt to identify colours
through clicker training. We were just
amazed when we saw a video of Priscilla in
action (more on that later) and we had to find
out about Linda's work and her wonderful
little hen.
While studying towards her professional
animal trainer certification with the Karen
Pryor Academy, Linda was required to train
with a species other than a dog. Naturally,
being a hen keeper, she thought she would
give it a go with two of her girls – Priscilla
and Dorothy.
“They were stars,” said Linda. “Clicker trainers
are curious, and I've always been fascinated
by behaviour in all sorts of animals – working
with these girls, using positive reinforcement
and clicker training allowed me to ‘open a
dialogue’ and work in a respectful,
consensual way. I wasn't training them, we
were working together, with both parties
having as much fun and learning as much as
the other.”
Linda said her girls found clicker training fun
and enriching and, of course, Priscilla and
Dorothy were very curious! We’re sure you
have all experienced nosiness from your own
hens.
Once they had learned the basics they
picked up the foundations of pecking a
target, responding to a voice cue, and trying
new behaviours – and they kept coming
back for more.
Clicker Training
Chickens? You bet!
“The animal you're working with always lets
you know how you're doing as a trainer!” said
Linda. “My mentor once said to me that ‘if
you're going to train chickens, you have to be
good - if you're not getting it right, or taking
advantage of them, they will just leave - and
then you'll know how you did’!”
Linda said she adored working with her
ex-bats, adding they were more social, but
less sensitive to handling, environment and
interacting, so were always the first girls to
‘volunteer’ for training. They also learnt as
quickly as other animals.
“They are always going to top "normal"
chickens in my book,” she added. “They
always seem keener to play, while the others
may hang back/not be as interested. They
are so fun.”
Linda always takes her video of Priscilla
clicker training on the road with her and gets
a wonderful reaction from those who see it.
“If nothing else, I want to ‘bust myths’ and
let people see that all animals deserve care
and respect, and that using kind, fair and
effective teaching we can help every animal
reach its potential and have an enriched life,”
said Linda. “I hope Priscilla is changing the
world, little by little.”
Linda said more and more clicker trainers
are starting to use animals other than dogs
which makes them ‘sharper, more precise
and kinder’.
“We often take advantage of a dog's social
obligation to us, but you won't get away with
that with a chicken!” added Linda. “In terms
Chickens? Bird brained? You’re kidding, right? We’re sure you’ve
had many heated debates with people who argue hens aren’t that
intelligent. Well, we are here to settle that debate.
of chicken training, I don't think they have
particular aptitude, for me it's more about
seeing the animal you are working with,
learning as much about that individual as you
can in the moment, and respecting them as
you work together - and always making sure
there's something in it for them!”
We’re so grateful to Linda for telling us
more about her work, and for her efforts in
proving to the world that chickens are in fact
intelligent! If you’d like to see her and Priscilla
in action, just head over to the BHWT
Facebook page where we have shared the
video. We’ll warn you – it’s pretty addictive!
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Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
Chicken & Egg. Welfare and Food Together.
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